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Tuesday, 14 January 2020 06:38

Grammar School Expansion, including Tunbridge Wells Boys, Gravesend and Norton Knatchbull.

Last week, Kent County Council moved a step closer to introducing the proposed Grammar School Annexe of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys in Sevenoaks. This will parallel the girls annexe on the same site, which has been operating since 2017. Two boys’ grammar schools, Gravesend and Norton Knatchbull, have been awarded funding by KCC to meet major housing expansions in Ashford and Ebbsfleet respectively, and I also look at the next round of the Grammar School Expansion Fund decisions planned for the Autumn of 2019, but delayed presumably because of the General Election.
Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys
KCC carried out a Consultation on expanding Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys on the education campus site in Sevenoaks last year, which already includes the Weald of Kent Annexe and Trinity School, a Free church comprehensive. The Council has now agreed  that the scheme should proceed to the Planning process. The intention is to admit another 90 boys bringing the intake up to 300, pipping Weald of Kent Grammar as the largest grammar school in Kent. All applicants will be subject to the single Oversubscription criteria approved for the school. To my mind, this is the critical criterion that marks out the two sites as a single school, and will be far more difficult to achieve elsewhere, where there is no obvious connection. Children are then allocated to the school using that distance criterion from the main site, and then the school makes the decision as to which site they will be based at, as happens at Weald.  
Presumably, as this a KCC proposal, it will be funded by the Local Authority expansion fund to meet the increasing need for grammar school places in West Kent to be provided for Kent pupils.What I think we can be fairly sure of is that Boris Johnson, who has frequently stated his support for grammar schools, is not going to block moves to expand the grammar school sector - quite the reverse (see below). I suspect that in time the rules may become flexible enough for the two annexes to morph into a single stand alone grammar school, but that is not an inevitability. 
Gravesend Grammar School
Gravesend Grammar, under pressure to admit boys from the Ebbsfleet area, who are unable to gain access to either of the Dartford Grammars because of their policy to chase high performers from London, has been awarded £7 million from the KCC capital budget. This will enable the school to replace temporary accommodation introduced following a previous expansion and add an additional form of entry and will bring its Planned Admission number up to 205, officially third largest behind Tunbridge Wells Boys, Weald of Kent. In practice, Invicta Grammar, Highworth Grammar and Norton Knatchbull all increased their intake on offer day to 240, 210 and 210 pupils respectively. 
Norton Knatchbull School, Ashford
Norton Knatchbull, which has a Published Admission Number of 149 has increased its numbers for several years by a high success rate at appeal and, according to a newspaper report now needs additional accommodation to manage the numbers entering the school. In any case, the rapid current expansion of Ashford will require new places to be put in for future years.  The school plans to demolish its arts and technology block (probably the area where I was taught sixty years ago) and replace it by a Digital Learning Centre, with additional accommodation to follow. Headteacher Susan Staab left the school at Christmas ‘to develop her own career further’ and was subsequently appointed head of a historic and elite girls comprehensive in London, The Grey Coat Hospital School from September.
Selective Schools Expansion Fund (SSEF)
The successful applicants for the second round of this government initiative  were due to be announced in the Autumn, but this may have been delayed by the General Election. In the 2018-19 round, of the 16 successful schools, only Rochester Grammar locally were successful. Unsuccessful local  applicants were: Skinners', Cranbrook, Highworth, Tunbridge Wells Boys, Wilmington Boys and Girls (jointly), all from Kent and Rainham Mark in  Medway.
For the 2019-20 round, a number of Kent grammars consulted on applying including: Barton Court; Highsted, Queen Elizabeth’s; Wilmington Boys and Girls (jointly).  A full list of applicants will only be published after the event. Kent County Council has indicated it will support a second Kent grammar school annexe in either Whitstable or Herne Bay and both Queen Elizabeth’s, Faversham and Barton Court, Canterbury have bid for this through the scheme. I have looked at this proposal here, but remain unconvinced there is a pressing need at this time, especially as 30 additional places have been allocated at Simon Langton Boys.
Last modified on Saturday, 15 February 2020 16:24

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